Some Stuff I Like

Apropos of nothing, I wanted to write about some Stuff I Like. Ideas, visions, scenes, archetypes, cliches, gimmicks – whatever it is that strikes my fancy and makes me want to play or run Dungeons & Dragons (or any of the other games I like) right this moment. There’s a lot of Stuff I Like, and it’s always nice to focus on the things we like instead of the stuff we don’t, since so much of life is usually involuntarily stuck on the other stuff we like way less. I have no idea if this will be of any interest whatsoever to anyone else in the entire world but I’m gonna write it anyway.

1. I like Vikings (and their commonly conflated peoples).

L-R: “Lagertha” by Morris Meredith Williams, “Vikings Heading for Land” by Frank Dicksee, “Hordur Grimkelsson” by Gilwellian

I like vikings. I like the swords of the vikings, especially the latter era with Ulfberht inscribed on the blade and inlaid with a different material to proclaim their origin; they must have been gorgeous new. I like the spears of the vikings, with their leaf-shaped, lugged iron heads. Lovely stuff. I like the utilitarian nature of their bearded axes. I like shieldmaidens with painted round shields, and I like the idea of playing hnefatafl to hand down institutional knowledge and keep critical tactical leadership skills sharp between maritime raids. I am especially fascinated by one of my homeland’s cultural landmarks, the Viking settlement at L’anse Aux Meadows in Newfoundland. There’s a melancholy romance to the saga of Vinland and the concept of trying to make a colony that remote work, that long ago.

Some viking hooks/ideas:

  • The lord protector, regent of the land while the queen leads her crusade on her devil-backed foes to the south, summons you with all haste – on the horizon, ships with blue sails have been spotted, and they’re headed for land. He fears invasion, but more, he fears the queen’s punishments if he should fail to safeguard her lands. This one would be cool for domain level play, I think, maybe leading to reversing the tide altogether and invading the viking lands once you’ve pushed back the raiders.
  • The underworld, vast as it is, contains its own bottomless seas. There, a race of savage men and women, shrieking blood and thunder, hammering their shields with bearded axes, ekes out a difficult existence in the gloom of the subterranean world against the limitless foes that seek their flesh for food. These stranded vikings set out a decade ago to seek new colonies and found themselves swallowed – by beast, by whirlpool, by sorcery – and deposited here. They call their settlement Myrkland, should the party manage to make contact.
  • Seven viking swords forged of meteoric iron once belonged to seven viking jarls. They were brothers and beloved saviors, who helped lead the vikings of the icy Northlands to prosperity by using their fortune-favored blades to staunch the flow of barbaric troll-men from beyond the mists and snow. Centuries later, rich from raiding southern lands, the complacent vikings find themselves rent by warfare and conquest of comrade against comrade, plunging the kingdoms of the vikings into bloody disarray – and the troll-men return, more ravenous than ever. Someone has stolen the blades from their sacred barrows and upset the delicate peace by unleashing the curse of bloodshed once more, and brave souls must venture into the dangerous wilds and deepest dungeons to find the seven swords.

2. I like Corsican Vendetta Knives.

L-R: wejphotos on Flickr, u/tonyinthecountry on Reddit
I like Corsican vendetta knives. They have a slender design, like a barracuda, an inherently predatory shape disguised by the Franco-Italian styling of the decor. I like the smooth bone panels riveted onto the matte steel, the enamel and paint in floral patterns. I like the idea of needing to settle a score so badly, you engrave it onto the razor-sharp blade of the very weapon you plan to settle it with – in theory, anyway! I like their simple ubiquity; a tool carried close to hand at all times for daily needs, but kept sharp and ready, a constant reminder of their true purpose every time you feel the weight in your pocket.
Some vendetta knife hooks/ideas:
  •  A bandit your party kills or captures has a dagger on his person with a party member’s name inscribed carefully upon it. Why does he bear this grudge?
  • The lord high inquisitor needs a noble assassinated, but it must be done with a vendetta knife tying the heir to the throne to the killing.
  • Any weapon inscribed with a target’s name and blessed by a blasphemous priest of the goddess of thieves, treachery, and assassins, shall gain +1 to all attacks against that person and +1 to all damage rolls against that person, but shall also shatter when that person is slain.

3. I like Zhangjiajie National Forest Park.

by chensiyuan on Wikimedia Commons
I like Zhangjiajie and its stony needles. I like the dense forest below and atop each peak, like these mountains rise up from a jungle primeval, undiscovered by humans. I come from the mountains and forests of the Cascades and Canadian Rockies; I am accustomed to miles of undisturbed nature and rocky crags amidst the boreal rainforests of the west. But they are not quite so alien in appearance, like this amazing place is to me. The fingers of stone reaching up from the overgrowth makes me imagine fantastic things. I like to imagine the peaks bored out by expert miners, turned into high-rise towers for a civilization of forest-dwellers seeking refuge from endless subtropical rain and the innumerable predators of the deep forests below. I like imagining vine bridges grown from peak to peak, and Ewok-style villages surrounding each rocky outcropping, held aloft by the thick branches of the trees that grow only immediately near the mountains.

Some Zhangjiajie hooks/ideas:

  • Do that hollow mountain idea I said. Determined humanoids hammer and chip and chisel their way to a naturalistic Empire State Building surrounded by endless jungle. Maybe they war upon other towers with gliders and pterodactyl mounts and flaming jars of tar. 
  • Fearing the monsters of the teeming undergrowth, the people of the valley have established their villages on the narrow summits of these bizarre mountains, traveling by astonishing cablecar gondolas from peak to peak. Their mines travelling down into the mountain have broken into deep networks of pristine, finished marble rooms which none have ever seen before, and they have brought back incredible riches. Recent expeditions have not returned, and the chieftains seek aid to explore the ruins and retrieve their explorers.

4. I like Halberds

 L-R: 1612 Austrian halberd on Wikimedia Commons, 1550 Italian halberd on Wikimedia Commons, 1596 Austrian halberd on Wikimedia Commons – all pieces part of the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.
I like halberds. Oh man, do I like halberds. I like all polearms, really; due in equal parts to various books about knights and castles and medieval warfare as a kid and then Gary Gygax infecting my brain with equipment tables. But of all the polearms, I especially like halberds. In fact, they’re probably my favorite weapon from before the 19th century. Top three, for sure. They’re so practical and multifunctional, like the Swiss Army Knife of just completely wrecking an enemy yeoman on the battlefield. You’ve got an axe with about six feet of leverage behind it; you’ve got a spear (and you can choose between a broad bladed spear for unarmored foes and a long, cruel needle for armored foes); you’ve got a war pick; you’ve got a hook to help that yeoman down off his horse. You can outrange swords and axes, hack at shields and hafts, and you get huge swagger points for looking awesome while you do it. And, their excellence was so appreciated that they became ceremonial weapons when their era as the premiere weapon had come and gone, because they’re just that cool. These decorated examples prove how gorgeous martial objects can be. If I am playing in your game, there’s about a 50/50 chance I’m showing up with a character wielding a halberd.

Some halberd hooks/ideas:

  • Rumors abound of the lost treasure of Sir Braithwaite the Drakeslayer, including his enchanted halberd Drakebane (+1, +3 vs dragons and their kin). Some say the treasure was captured by the orcs who sacked the kingdom thirty years ago, but the town drunk knows otherwise. For a night of carousing, he could part with the truth: he and four other traitors, seeking fortune, stole the noble knight’s cache during the chaos of the final pitched defense of Castle Braithwaite. Where it is now is a mystery even to him, but he knows it must be in the hands of one of his four co-conspirators.
  • The law of the land says no one outside the service of the baron can carry a halberd or polearm, which is a real problem for the PCs when they arrive in town. Their sentence could be commuted, and the party could even be rewarded with homesteads and farms, if the party were willing to deal with the lizardmen who have been ravaging the area from the ruins in the swamps. The lizardmen might tell a different tale, though: they are outcasts seeking revenge and survival, cursed to their lizard shape by the baron’s cruel wife for failing to pay taxes on their barren farms.
  • The hamlet of Wilkirch is found slaughtered and abandoned when the king’s men seek a lost tax collector, and no one remains alive to tell the tale of who savagely murdered the men, women, and children. One clue remains as to the perpetrators and what became of the lost taxes. Behind the scorched palisades, beneath the crumbling ruined wattle-and-daub homes, the iron head of a hobgoblin halberd remains buried in the spine of the town blacksmith.

So, this was just a list of some things I like. I hope some of you found something of use here, or at least liked the pictures (which I sourced via Advanced Google Image Search seeking examples with free use licenses, and hopefully have credited sufficiently here). I think I might do more of these, from time to time, between all the other sorts of things I write about, because it’s nice to focus on the good things. If you liked this, or hated this, let me know in the comments or on Twitter @dungeonspossums so I can adjust my self-worth accordingly. 

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